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Integrated care systems ‘need dedicated funding and law changes to succeed’

National health leaders need to invest time into developing appropriate legislation, reforming regulation, redesigning financial architectures and earmarking funding in order to truly support the advancement of integrated care systems (ICSs), the King’s Fund has concluded.

In its major review of eight of the first-wave ICSs, launched today at a summit attended by NHE, the think tank outlined nine key recommendations for national bodies in order to support effective, system-wide integration.

A few of these were related to funding: namely, that the upcoming NHS 10-year plan should set out a route map for areas to progress from STPs to ICSs – with dedicated funding to support this – and that current financial rules should be changed to support the aspiration to deliver more integrated care.

Despite early successes across the existing ICSs, the King’s Fund warned that legislative changes will eventually be needed to support the development of more systems. National leaders should therefore identify amendments that could support immediate progress, while also coming up with plans for more significant reforms in the longer term.

One of the key findings in the report was that NHS England and NHS Improvement were holding back the existing ICSs due to their “largely unchanged” regulatory approach, which still has a focus on organisational performance and accountabilities and offers conflicting messages.

To fix this, they must reform regulation to align with local systems, starting by measuring the ability of these systems to meet the needs of their populations and then by shifting the behaviour and mindsets of those working in the national teams.

“National and regional leaders in NHS England and Improvement should demonstrate a commitment to collective, compassionate leadership, creating a proportionate approach to regulation and enabling local leaders to develop their own improvement capabilities,” the report explained.

The two bodies must also work with local leaders to clarify how ICSs fit into the regional architecture, ensuring that the overlap between regions and ICSs do not create yet another layer of bureaucracy.

NHE is attending The King’s Fund’s official report launch today at its integrated health and care summit. Follow our Twitter to keep up to date with developments.

Top image: MarioGuti via iStock


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